On June 16, 2011, Júzcar - an archetypical Andalusian white town located in the south of Spain - made headlines as part of Sony Pictures’ marketing campaign for The Smurfs (Raja Gosnell). Momentarily converted into Smurfville, the houses’ picturesque white facades appeared all painted in smurf blue. The town literally materialized for a few days the film’s promise of a 3D immersive experience. Júzcar was supposed to return to its original state once the film’s promotional period was over. In fact, their agreement with Bungalow25 – the advertising agency responsible for developing the promotional campaign – included reverting the town back to its original state two months after the film’s release. Since its shift to blue, however, Juzcár attracted more tourists than ever, generating substantial economic benefits during difficult times of austerity and high unemployment. Under these circumstances one can understand why its inhabitants were reluctant to get rid of such a lucrative cover and consequently voted in favour of maintaining the smurf theming of the town, somehow turning an ephemeral summer disguise into a more enduring way of life.
Interestingly, the case of Júzcar parallels similar cross-promotional tactics that attempt to incorporate the theme park model into other types of commercial and public spaces such as restaurants, museums, or shopping malls. Location-based entertainment venues claim to offer escape into a fantasy world, providing an added value to the performance of quotidian activities and thus turning the ordinary into a unique and entertaining experience. While for the crowds of tourists a day in Smurfville closely resembles the visit to other similarly themed spaces, the inhabitants’ relationship with the Smurf’s media environment surrounding them during 365 days per year, 24hrs a day, must be quite different.
Translating the theme park model into an enduring total lifestyle is an extreme example of the increasing presence of media brands in public spaces. It ultimately offers a point of entry for interrogating the complex relationship between local communities and global media systems. What happens then when you don’t visit the theme park but rather directly live in it? How does the permanent theming of a village as Júzcar affect the town’s community and forms of identity? And, what does this say about the impact of current global media practices and international capital on local communities?